You know from this blog that I like Tony Kornheiser, especially his radio show, where he is at his best. I also mention that he has lost his fastball by moving to ESPN 980 with tape delays, shorter e-mail segments, and being the old guy. Well, Mr. Tony and his radio station are at a crossroads.
Recently, executives from ESPN 980 in DC decided to put up the podcast 24 hours after the “live” show. Since then, they decided to put up the podcast in 12 hours to split the difference. This is ESPN 980’s Director of Programming, Chuck Sapienza, explanation for the move on DC Sports Bog:
“We’re delaying the podcasts 24 hours for all of our shows,” he told me. “I know this hurts people who listen out-of-town, but we’re trying to get people to listen on the radio. We’re in the radio business, and we’re trying to get people to listen on the radio. And the more people who download podcasts, the fewer people who listen on the radio.”
There has been a lot of backlash from the littles (Kornheiser fans) about this move since most of the littles work at an office or don’t get ESPN 980 since they’re outside the DC area. I agree with them.
When did Sapienza (and to an extent, Dan Snyder) all became Bill Wirtz believing you have to listen to radio to best listen. This tells me the regime does not have a clue about the current trends and don’t pay attention to the business. If Sapienza had a brain, radio advertising is down across the board except if your call letters are WTOP or NPR, podcasting can be lucrative, if done right, and people use mobile apps since it’s more convenient than carrying a radio. Red Zebra dropped the ball big time, but they are not only to blame.
I have said this many times, but you have to look at Kornheiser as well. Yes, his first stint at ESPN Radio was hoot, but it was unlikely we would see those days. His time at Bonneville (used to own Washington Post Radio and 3WT, but now defunct) was at his best. If I know Jim Farley, his only regret was not calling Washington Post Radio/3WT…WTOP2 (talk radio). If he took those call letters, Kornheiser would have his audience and would stay at Bonneville (which is now Hubbard Broadcasting after Bonneville sold WTOP to them). Instead, Kornheiser had the Monday Night Football gig and ruin the momentum for the station(s). After quitting his MNF job and getting “fired” by the Washington Post, Kornheiser had a talk with Jim Zinzi and decided to go to Red Zebra to reboot his radio show. It was great the littles can listen to Mr. Tony again, but we all knew there were consequences. The first thought was ESPN 980 is affiliated with ESPN and that the station is owned by Dan Snyder (and you know that story).
If Kornheiser open his mind, he would have ample opportunity to make big bucks: Go back to Bonneville, where their revenues are second biggest in the country; go to public media and ask for donations to feed his family and crew; or take the podcasting route at his own home or at the PTI studios and charge the littles a fee, for which the littles were willing to pay. Instead, he went with the safest route and select ESPN 980. How that turn out? He can’t bash ESPN (for which he did and got suspended). He talks to one of the biggest superstars (he did with Lance Armstrong (and his cronies), but got ridiculed from a meaningless joke). Finally, his shows were live (and then switch to pre-recorded). Sadly, Kornheiser re-signed with Red Zebra for two more years until 2012. Until that time, the Metro construction at Tysons Corner and Reston will be finished.
Dan Snyder’s pettiness, Chuck Sapienza’s lack of intelligence, and Kornheiser’s stubbornness are effects of who’s the biggest loser of the debacle: the listeners (podcasters and live listeners). I pray for someone not name Red Zebra to take Mr. Tony after October 2012, I beg you.
UPDATED: On his opening segment yesterday, Mr. Tony stated that he has reach his maximum number of shows and will take next week…and the whole month of July and August off from the show. This is unprecedented and shows again the terrible business judgment of Sapienza and Snyder that they don’t know how to run a 1) content delivery business nor 2) a radio business. Kornheiser literally helped carried the station. I hope somebody buys out Kornheiser’s contract: Hubbard, public media, hell even evil Clear Channel. Somebody?